E-Government in the UK

E-Government in the UK

John Hudson
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-947-2.ch015
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Like many of its western counterparts, the United Kingdom (UK) government has a long history of using IT in the administration and delivery of public services. Indeed, as early as 1959 mainframe computers were introduced in order to automate some routine aspects of public administration (Margetts & Willcocks, 1992, p. 329). However, it was not until the late 1970s and early 1980s—as the UK rose to the forefront of the emerging microcomputer industry—that IT featured in policy discourse in anything other than an extremely minor fashion. Even then—despite the appointment of Kenneth Baker as the government’s first Information Technology Minister in 1981—the issue did not feature prominently and there was nothing approaching the equivalence of the neighbouring French government’s review of the long-term social and economic policy implications of L’Informatisation d’Societe commissioned in 1976 by President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (Nora & Minc, 1980). In fact, one former government minister claimed in his diaries that Baker’s appointment to the government had more to do with finding a minor role for a politician piqued at his omission from the Cabinet than with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s belief in the importance of IT related issues (Lawson, 1992). However, the agenda began to gather some pace following Thatcher’s departure in 1990. Under the helm of Prime Minister John Major, the Conservatives introduced a number of important policies—including a series of industrially focused information society initiatives aimed at boosting the use of ICTs by business. In addition, prompted perhaps by the popular emergence of the Internet, other branches of government began to show a greatly increased interest in the issue. For instance, a Parliamentary committee—the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee (1996)—produced a major report on the implications of the information society for government. In addition, the publication of a major study on the same issue by the European Union (1994) added weight to the emerging agenda. Shortly before losing power in 1997, the Major government produced what was arguably the UK government’s first systematic consideration of the implications of ICTs for government when it published an exploratory Green Paper titled Government.Direct (CITU, 1996). Though it came too late in the life of the government to advance its ideas any further than the discussion stage, it at least served to heighten the prominence of the agenda (Hudson, 2002).

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